MT. CLEMENS (WWJ) – The Detroit Zoo has announced a new Great Lakes Nature Center coming to Macomb County.

The center will focus on the water and wildlife of the Great Lakes, according to the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) — and, while it’s not exactly a zoo, it will be home to a number of live animals.

“We are thrilled to be designated as the future home of this exciting waterfront nature attraction, which will provide a unique gathering place in Macomb County for family fun and learning, educational programming and community engagement,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

The $10 million facility will be more than 20,000 square feet and construction is expected to begin in 2018.

“We hope to start within a year building, and it will take about a year to build,” said DZS Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan. “So…whether it’s exactly two years from today or hopefully a little bit sooner than that, we hope to be open.”

The attraction will feature a number of Great Lakes fish including lake sturgeon and paddlefish, which are now extinct in the Great Lakes. The center, the DZS said, the will focus on conservation efforts and other endangered species — with habitats for native amphibians, reptiles, turtles, small mammals, shorebirds and birds of prey. Many of those birds of prey will have been rescued and non-releasable, such as the sandhill crane — which is the oldest living bird species.

“As stewards of the environment, we have a great responsibility to protect the Great Lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them,” Kagan said. “Macomb County, with 32 miles of coastline along Lake St. Clair and 31 miles on the Clinton River, is the ideal location for a major waterfront nature center devoted to the natural wonders of the Great Lakes.”

There also will be a native butterfly garden, the DZS said, along with programs and opportunities for the public in the areas of birding, astronomy, environmental protection, science and animal welfare.

One important aspect still yet to be worked out: Where the center will be located.

Hackel said high on the list of possible sites is the popular Lake St. Clair Metropark, also known as Metro Beach.

“That’s one of my favorite spots, locations, and it is one that’s being considered,” Hackel said. “But there are many others, too; some that are actually on the river. Others are other locations that are on the lake.”

The DZS says the center will be partially powered by hydro and solar energy, including an all-in-one ground-mounted solar panel system called a Smartflower. It will also incorporate eco-friendly policies, practices and construction, such as the use of permeable pavement parking, rain gardens, waste reduction and recycling, and sustainable materials.

Funding from the project will come from private and foundation contributions, officials said. In addition, efforts are underway to secure public funding from various environmental departments and agencies.

When it opens by the end of 2019, the Great Lakes Nature Center is estimated to attract 150,000 to 200,000 visitors annually.


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